Thursday, 21 March 2024 13:08

Congressman Tonko Takes Aim at Sports Betting Industry

Screenshot of NYRA Bets website Responsible Gaming webpage Screenshot of NYRA Bets website Responsible Gaming webpage

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Saratoga County’s Congressman is determined to rein in the sports betting industry.

Rep. Paul Tonko unveiled new legislation called the Supporting Affordability and Fairness with Every (S.A.F.E.) Bet Act in a virtual press conference on Tuesday afternoon. “The sports book industry has been operating in a Wild West, largely unregulated environment,” Tonko said. “I don’t get into issues lightly; this industry needs to change and change quickly.”

According to documents provided by Tonko’s office, the SAFE Bet Act would require states that offer sports betting to ensure that operators comply with federal standards in three different categories: advertising, affordability, and artificial intelligence.

The bill would prohibit sportsbook advertising during live sporting events, broadcast advertising between the hours of 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., advertising that shows its audience how to gamble, and promotions that induce gambling with various types of bonus bets. Operators would no longer be able to accept more than five deposits from one customer in a 24-hour period. Operators would also be required to conduct “affordability checks” before accepting large wagers. The use of artificial intelligence to track gambling habits, offer individualized promotions, and create gambling products would be prohibited.

The SAFE Bet Act would also establish a general nationwide ban on sports betting, but create exceptions for states that acquire an approved application from the Department of Justice. States that already have sports betting programs would have one year to comply. Betting on amateur sports, with some exceptions for the Olympics, Paralympics, and college sports, would also be banned. 

Last year, Tonko introduced the Betting on Our Futures Act, which would have prohibited online and electronic advertising of sportsbooks. Since then, Tonko said he’s come to believe that the issue of gambling addiction “goes much deeper than just advertising.”

Tonko cited data showing that around 7 million people nationwide either have a problem with gambling or a full-blown addiction. An estimated 20%, or 1.4 million, of those individuals will attempt or have attempted suicide.

In the wake of the 2018 Supreme Court decision to strike down a federal ban on sports betting, Tonko has made several efforts to combat gambling addiction. In addition to the Betting on Our Futures Act, he also wrote a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services advocating that gambling addiction be covered under the Affordable Care Act. 

In 2013, sports betting became legal in New York State, but mobile sports betting didn’t begin until early 2022. Earlier this year, Governor Kathy Hochul announced that the state had collected more than $1.55 billion in taxes on sports wagers. “I look forward to this third year of our successful gaming policies that deliver top tier mobile sports wagering experiences,” Governor Hochul said in a statement. “We will continue to generate revenue that will enrich the lives of New Yorkers, all with important safeguards in place to help those who need it.”

NYRA Bets, the official betting partner of the New York Racing Association (which operates the Saratoga Racecourse), states on its website that it is “committed to promoting responsible wagering.” NYRA Bets has partnered with the National Council on Problem Gambling and the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services “to address issues of compulsive and pathological gambling and have developed a comprehensive program to ensure account holders wager responsibly.” 

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